I want to take this opportunity to talk about two things: understanding our political opponents and how Democrats can win more elections- always a nice thing.
Understanding Our Opponents
The idea that insulting your opponents will win them over has never lost credibility despite a track record of total failure. Perhaps nobody wants to win the other side over. Perhaps we've given up on each other and now it's all about who can impose as much of their agenda on the other as possible.
I don't know if there was ever a time in the political history of the human race where opposing interests loved and adored each other. These days there isn't even a façade of gentility. There is zero trust on either side, zero understanding- I see no attempt to give each other even a thorough once over- and, no surprise, zero respect. Giddily drunk on the wine of self righteous superiority, both sides are perfectly content living with half assed stereotypes: to the right the lefties are cowards and to the left the righties are greedy, dangerous, power crazed madmen. We have reduced ourselves to a level of cliché worthy of heavy metal rock n' roll.
These characterizations cost us dearly. The problem with not being honest is not that God gets mad; it's that we end up lost. If we aren't in touch with reality we cannot impact reality. Without honesty there can be no progress. Being ready to move forward means we must have a willingness to see each other for who we really are. The first question then is "Are we ready to move forward?"
The next question is: If we aren't those awful clichés, then who are we? I'd like to approach an answer to this question from a different angle then I am used to reading about in our national discourse. I'd like to talk about the spiritual side of politics. This angle is far more subjective so it's much more fun.
We Democrats and other not far right wingers have long championed people's right to privacy and the personal freedom to do what makes them happy, limited only by one basic rule: no one has the right to interfere with the free will of another.
Most people who end up in the Democratic Party know that one's sense of personal security comes from within, and is based on who we are. The far right- and by that I mean religious extremists all over the world- Jane and Joe Rightwing, pizza magnate Tom Monaghan, Dubya, Mr and Mrs Taliban, et al. can't turn inward for a sense of security.
People who can find security in who they are happily let others do as they please. That is not what is happening with the right wing here in America or abroad. They are not content to let others do as they please. The far right all over the world is focused with laser like intensity on creating a controlling cultural, political and economic authority with dominion over the environment and the behavior of those around them. They are looking to make the world their world. Tighty righties know best whether they can trust themselves, so they'll get no argument from me on that issue.
To the far right, who cannot turn within for guidance, personal freedom is an invitation to personal chaos, thus behavioral carte blanche is a terrifying proposition. So where does someone who cannot turn inward for a sense of security, that is, the instinctive ability to know what is right for them and others find safety? Without an internal source of what is right J&JR must rely on outside guidance, or an authority figure, and the rules and codes set up by that authority, to guide them through life.
Giving oneself over to a person or organization requires believing that organization owns the truth, is above reproach, and that everyone is subject to its authority. Without such conditions, no reasonable person would trust themselves to an outside influence. All that is right, all that is true and all behavior must derive from this authority which then has final say over which behaviors are ok and which aren't.
Behavioral codes are meant to guide J&JR through what in their experience is a vast, overwhelming, inscrutable landscape of personal identity without destroying others or themselves. These moral codes are also designed to give someone with an incomplete understanding of others a deeper, more complete, more compassionate view. They rely on their moral codes for any sense of security they have. J&JR have created a sense of security, however false, however flimsy, by establishing and enforcing strict, clear, simple moral codes.
Because nothing inside can reliably guide them, J&JR desperately need intense social pressure to keep them following the behavioral codes they feel they need to keep them from getting into spiritual trouble. Only the loss of social standing and thus economic opportunity can grab their attention and force them to stay in line when internal chaos threatens to rule the day. Conformity is an absolute necessity in their condition.
Their codes make it clear they must respect the rights of others. But they don't have a clear idea of what an 'other' is. For example: out of fear, and despite all the evidence, the US religious right believes a fertilized human egg is a person. To us lefties a fertilized egg is a cell growth. It seems so obvious that a cell growth is not a person we want to grab them by the collar and start shaking. To someone who doesn't have a sure grasp of who they are and what an 'other' is, however, abortion is a profoundly scary thought. So J&JR, quite understandably, err on the safe side.
Internal instability is just that: their "who they are," or their identity, is developing. They don't know if they could somehow become gay, or violent or not. Spiritual truths don't resonate internally in their spiritual condition, so righties can't sense that homosexuality is perfectly natural. Righties rely on absolute black and white codes to navigate spiritual waters, and their codes say homosexuality is a perversion. So they believe it's a perversion despite all the evidence. They simply cannot turn inward for a sense of security or guidance.
If social pressure is what keeps them in line they cannot allow anybody to be gay or have an abortion or they'll feel as if nothing is there to keep them out of profound internal chaos. The righties believe they may turn evil, or gay, if left to their own devices. To them "Gay" is what happens to people who are godless, or without restriction- and god is what delivers them from internal chaos- or "evil". Laws protecting gay rights institutionalize a path to hell in the mind of religious conservatives. If even one person is allowed to be gay they are threatened on a deeply personal level. Lost leads to desperate. Desperate leads to extreme. That is why in times of crisis the right wing can be focused on gay marriage amendments and flag burning. Tom DeLay, George Bush and Bill O'Reilly feel pretty fucking scared right now. Perhaps humiliating them is not the most constructive approach.
Profound spiritual fear is why righties are fighting to turn this country- the courts, the military, the schools, the media, our bedrooms- everything- into their likeness. They are not madmen.
Right Wing Sex
Republicans are well known for over reacting to sexual issues while claiming sensibility is theirs alone. They're always so shocked and saddened that everyone else isn't as outraged as they are at Janet's Super Nipple. We Dems have become utterly exasperated with the right wing's sexual issues. Are they stuffy and uptight and sexually insecure? Yes. But they aren't merely dorks.
Why is sex such a huge issue to these people? Let's back up and remember that sexual energy feeds one's spiritual identity. If one's identity is unstable and thus a source of insecurity, then sex fuels a problem. At the J&JR level of personal and spiritual development sex can be a trap- and a deadly trap. Sex without restriction could lead to making their spiritual problems more entrenched and less soluble. To someone who cannot turn inward for a sense of security sexual energy is terrifying. We must understand the far right is trying to deal with intense, scary, personal growth issues.
In stark contrast to the righties of tight, most Dems can sift through the wide range of behavioral choices available today and through trial and error, and sometimes with a lot of error, (hello!) arrive at a lifestyle that works well for them. We must accept that the far right cannot resolve behavioral issues with a unique, personal response to the question: "Is this behavior right for me?" The right needs things black and white.
Effective social pressure requires every one in a society- everyone- to conform to the same behavior. (I never said their spiritual strategy didn't have flaws.) The righties really aren't interested in hunting down those who do "immoral" things. They are interested in using society to keep themselves in line. That's why they went ape shit over Terry Schiavo. Any ethical or moral case made public will draw enormous amounts of right wing attention, while those cases out of the spotlight will be overlooked. They don't' want to recalibrate social norms to any degree- that is the same as throwing out all norms- and that would leave the right, in their view, with nothing to hold them together.
Desperate for a way to stabilize our ever changing social mores and discourage further change, they turn to the government, the law and the Constitution to regulate personal behavior. At this point the righties believe the only way to get a free society to act uniformly is through legal controls and media restrictions. What we must say to the righties is "your strategy is what YOU need, not what we need."
Because they want society to keep them in line they attach to the prestige of the office of the presidency the responsibility of moral leadership- a duty not outlined in the constitution. The POTUS is not a beacon of a particular group's moral guidelines, and rightly so. When Bill Clinton had White House Sex with 'that woman' he threatened one of their most cherished bastions of social authority. The Republicans were afraid a social norm they rely on would be destroyed. They believed the social pressures they think they need to stay in line had eroded too far, requiring an extreme correction.
We lefties and moderates don't see the president as a moral authority figure, although we do require high ethical standards of our presidents, so we look at the righties' intern blow job freak out as stupid and childish. It's neither. It's an attempt by righties to control themselves. We can judge their strategies' stupidity on how effective it is to use the presidency to shape their lives. Their strategy has worked well so far on people in their condition. I would strongly dissuade them from continuing in that direction, however.
It is widely known that African Americans, famous for- and rightly praised for- the physicality, sexuality and sensuality they bring to music, language and culture, among many other personal, spiritual and economic contributions, of course, are not popular with right-wingers. J&JR do not want sensuality- which they perceive as an invitation to permissiveness- to have any influence on societal norms.
Africans sense this rejection and stay away from Republicans in hordes. Only "white" African Americans, or those with the same willingness to restrict personal behavior, are acceptable to righties- Clarence Thomas is more than embraced by rightwing America. But the minute an ethnic African throws on a doo rag and wears baggy pants below the ass righties turn off. Righties believe the inherent, radiant celebratory sensuality in African peoples threatens the restrictions they feel they need in place to stabilize their inner lives. Janet Jackson's nipple is a big deal in their situation. The righties aren't, as a whole, or as a culture, truly racist. Individually is another story.
However, once some new, threatening cultural energy like jazz, rock n' roll, hip hop or various fashion statements, for example, proves it is not a threat to social behavioral norms, the righties generally look the other way. They'll scream "The Devil!!!" at first. They always will. As Strom Thurmond got older and grew more personally secure in his ability to find strength within he liberalized. By the end of his life he admitted gays should have been better protected by the government, shocking every one who doesn't look at Senator Thurmond as a sincere spirit trying to find security.
When righties say they are standing up for family values they are really saying- "We are losing our grip! Help us keep it together!" Their passionate desire to impeach Clinton, a truly absurd overreaction- is a sign of their desperation, not of their hatred. They were not out on a political vendetta against Clinton, they were trying to remove a powerful threat to their illusory control cocoon. They were genuinely scared. Clinton scares the living daylights out of the tighty righties because he's charismatic and sexual and politically powerful all at once.
When news of Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky broke we needed to say to J&JR "we're sorry you're so upset about the president's affair. We understand your concerns." When lefties call such things as the Clinton impeachment "political" we do not help anyone- especially ourselves. They react to him and Africans in accordance with the threat posed to social norms they rely on to feel secure. Clinton's mistake- to hide his actions, and then apologize, then concede the values issue is the Democrats' mistake. He should have come right out and said. "Yes, I had an affair. It was a personal choice that's nobody else's business. Hillary and I will deal with this in private. I don't recommend extra marital affairs. They can be quite destructive." We should have responded with our principles, not our power.
This whole Republican Iraq thing is not about getting rich- that's where Democrats get off track. Right wing ideology is not based in greed and power grabbing. They are trying to secure a world they think needs to be in place for them to feel safe. Money happens to come in handy. Attacking the righties is going to increase their sense of fear, strengthen their defenses and encourage them to tune us out. We can't unify this nation until we realize how scared people are. 9-11 threatened the righties prescription for security. It didn't just scare the righties, it made them desperate. Bush doesn't see 9/11 as a chance to get rich- he sees 9/11 as a chance to use money to find security. They aren't using 9-11 as an excuse to implement their evil plan for world domination. Bush is not a comic book villain. We cannot mock and scorn those who are afraid. The Democrats behavior has been staggeringly cruel.
Our message to the Republicans needs to be "Grow up. Take responsibility for the fact that you need to turn down that blow job by your intern, or the invitation to the neighborhood orgy, or to not have an abortion, or to not spend your kid's college money on a Porsche and find a way to feel safe. Or don't. It is not society's job to hold your hand and make sure you do whatever your right thing to do is. It's not society's job to make you feel safe. Just because you are uncomfortable with a person's behavior doesn't mean that person has to change. Your problem with someone's behavior is YOUR problem. And for God's sake it doesn't mean we have to write a law. Your gay neighbor won't destroy your family. Only you can do that. If you need help not going to an orgy then get it." We need to press the issue of real personal responsibility for self and press it hard.
Bill O'Reilly is fond of saying America will go down the tubes unless Judeo-Christian values, or family values, are enforced. Bill O'Reilly's life will go down the tubes if he doesn't use Judeo-Christian values to get a better handle on his personal growth issues. America will go down the tubes if the constitution isn't enforced. People have to realize the constitution is this country's source of security. We must be the party that communicates this principle.
Originally religion was meant to help people learn to understand others and consider their needs when making decisions. It stagnated into a feeling of being right and making people wrong who don't believe. From there many religious movements around the world have putrefied into an excuse to dominate others. Their beliefs may be right for them- but not for everyone. This is where we need to fight the Republicans no matter what the cost- long term or short term.
The United States of Americhrist, the use of power, and political motivation.
It would be nice if the tighty righties could take a handful of southern states and start a Christian Empire. Pizza boy Tom Monaghan has got the ball rolling, making plans to build a Christian town in Florida where Christian beliefs will be law. They could call it "Americhrist" and it could be like an American Iran. They could 'elect' Jesutollahs, ban everything from flag burning to taking the lord's name in vain and public displays of nipples. They can have the Ten Commandments in schools and in the courts, they can have prayer in schools and on the nightly news, they can all drive tanks to work and listen to Christian rock at the disco on Saturday night. They can lock down their boarders, fight drug wars, ban welfare, censor music, movies and television- unless they are violent- and do whatever else will make them feel safe. Every right winger could go to Americhrist to live and we'd be out of each other's hair.
The Jesumerican Dream, it seems, is some kind of Keebler Village, armed to the teeth, where nothing bad ever happens, where all the issues and challenges one faces in life are managed by a hege-maniacal force of technological magic- like that imposed on earth's civilizations by the silver robotesque alien guy in the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. In that typically '50's film an alien apparently made of some kind of shiny metal came down from space to earth and says to all of humanity: "stop fighting each other or I will destroy you!" like some exhausted parent bursting into their rambunctious kids' bedroom yelling " knock it off and go to sleep or you'll be grounded all summer."
The problem for righty is that somehow God doesn't seem to be that robotic Jesus force keeping everyone in line they so desperately want. After all, God keeps allowing large numbers of liberal and gay people to go un-smitten. So The Right has pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps and decided God does do for those who become Alien Jesus Dominatrix for themselves. They see America, the strongest nation on earth, as perfectly positioned to be the militaristic authority galactic moral policeman they crave to keep everyone in line. They think god handed them control of America to make this wish come true. Of course Bush was going to invade Iraq as soon as he got elected. He probably asked his advisors to come up with a plan to have the State of Texas invade Iraq when he was governor. The righties are seriously afraid that if they don't become the robot Jesus master of the universe they crave their whole world will fall apart. That is not an enviable feeling, and not a comfortable place to be. But it does generate enormous political will.
To the righties voting is an act of self preservation and self preservation is a natural, spontaneous, reliable, powerful political force. Those damn righties have a nasty habit of being tremendously unified and writing lots and lots and lots and lots of letters to their congressional representatives. They know who they are running twenty years from now. We Dems are still looking for our 2006 themes.
The right wing, putrefying under the burden of being right, is not concerned with the reality that forcing others to behave in ways that makes the right wing comfortable gives others the right to force behavior on the right wing. The right wing preaches self responsibility but tries to manage everyone's behavior. They want people responsible for their actions; they just don't want people to be able to take any. These are contradictions they cannot keep. And neither can the Democrats. We don't want the righties imposing their values on us, but we want to tell others, especially businesses, what they can and cannot do. We want personal freedom and restrictions on business. They want unrestricted business and limited personal freedoms. Both sides are so many whining Gollums clinging to the One Ring of Being Right, living in the shadowy world of dominating others. You'll find me in the Frodo section.
There is no way in hell the righties are going to give up their contradictions. But that doesn't mean we get to keep ours. If we are going to embrace personal freedom then we are going to have to embrace personal responsibility. We need to stop complaining about other's behavior and grow up. Yeah, businesses market to kids and teenagers. Don't teach your kids to be victims, teach them to take care of themselves. Start an after school class for kids and teach them how to be media savvy if it's such a big deal. That's standing up for your beliefs without imposing them on others. Our immaturity is that we don't want to have to take the time to teach our kids to be media savvy. We are staggeringly lazy. We need to stop using the government to do what we should be doing for ourselves. We say "We don't want to teach our kids- who has the time- so let's just have the government ban what we don't like." No.
We have our own child's toy shiny metallic Jesus All Powerful Alien Fantasy- we want our Pater Uber Roboticus Christ to be the U.S. Government. That's where we need to grow up. We need to stop selling ridiculous, outdated "Uncle Sam will take care of you" fantasies as a way of getting votes. It's hurting people. We are hurting people in New Orleans when we promise the government can take care of them. We can't. It is impossible to build an infallible levee around New Orleans. It is impossible to prevent all terrorist attacks.
We need to tell Americans "if you live on a flood plane, whether it's in Louisiana or along the Mississippi river or anywhere else then you better be prepared to role the dice. The U.S. Government does not pay you to live in harms way." Do we want to spend billions failing to protect poor people from flooding or millions to move people to higher ground and be done with the damn problem? People may argue they have the right to live on a flood plane, but the government has no obligation to pay for that right. We need to say "Take the help. If you don't, you stay behind at your own risk! You want a New Deal? Here's a New Deal: If you don't take your government's help to re-locate somewhere demonstrably safer, then you don't get help when disaster hits."
How many people would live on a flood plane if they had to rebuild out of their own pocket? None. Our government is the worst kind of enabler. We need to take responsibility for being a part of that ugly process. For too long we've thought that if the government doesn't do it, it can't get done. That's an idea emboldened by The Great Depression that's left over from the infancy of our national development. We need to rid ourselves of this nonsense.
There are all male golf clubs. Get over it. Let them have their little club. Crazy as it may sound; some people actually want to be homeless. Can we stop trying to eliminate all homelessness and deal with the people who want help? An economy based on oil must defend its source of oil. That's reality. Do oil companies try to get away with as much as they can? Yes. Do we? Hell fucking yes.
It should come as no surprise that insurance companies are in business to make money. Nor should it come as a surprise that if you live on a flood plane or below sea level or on a fault line that you can't get cheap insurance. Insurance companies are under no obligation to lose money because somebody feels they have the right to live on a flood plane. Why should the government? Health Insurance companies are not Shiny Jesus Robots from outer space. If you smoke, drink and eat everything put in front of you then you can't make that any one else's problem, especially the government's.
Insurance companies are in position to be the dominant cultural force in America. Consider this: if you eat like shit, smoke and drink and sit on your ass you can't get insurance. So what do you do? If you want insurance you watch what you put into your body. If you don't have insurance, then you'd better not be smoking cigarettes and eating at Mc Donald's and sucking down a half a ton of sugar every year.
We don't need the government to take away soda pop vending machines in schools. If kids don't buy soda pop, they won't sell it. We tell Republicans to go ahead and not have an abortion. That means we get to tell our kids to go ahead and not drink Coke. I can hear the shrieks of protest already: "Kids are weak and helpless and love sugar and they'll get fat and their teeth will rot out and death and ruin and blah blah blah." Bullshit. We don't need to save kids from themselves. We need to teach them to become responsible for the consequences of their actions. We don't need to teach kids they can do anything they want and somebody else will pay for whatever problems arise. They don't need a robot Jesus to come and save them.
When our kids were toddlers learning to walk they either developed balance or they fell. So now they're older and their issue is different. If they eat like shit they'll get fat. If they don't wanna get fat they won't eat like shit. Balance or fall. If people are responsible for their health we won't see fast food on every corner. People need to be self regulating. "But people will DIE!!!! People can't resist ADVERTISING!!!!" We lived through tough times and had to grow through them. We don't get to be proud of who we have become and then deny others the chance to grow through the same process. Our kids are not weaklings. We can't and don't need to root out every possible threat in our culture. We didn't need to be saved from our lives and neither do they. We need to get really, really clear on who gets the governments help and who doesn't. We need to fight to give people accurate information and then leave them alone.
We need policies that let people take repsonisbility for their actions. For example, we need registered smokers and drinkers. A consumer registers with the manufacturer of the dangerous drug or product they are using, the way people use their Costco Card. For example, if you smoke Marlboro's you register with Phillip Morris. If you drink Bud Lite you register with Anheiser Busch. Every time a smoker buys Marlboros they scan their Phillip Morris health insurance card and PM makes a deposit into their personal Phillip Morris health insurance fund which will go toward dealing with ONLY your smoking related health problems. When you buy a case of Bud, you scan your Bud Health card and Bud makes a deposit into your alcohol related health insurance account. The more you smoke and drink the more money these companies pay into your health insurance accounts. Medicare or other insurance companies will not be allowed to insure people for alcohol or smoking related health issues. Forget taxing these people. Forget Medicare paying for smoker's problems and suing cigarette makers to recover costs. Let Phillip Morris create a health bureaucracy. We don't want the government involved in these sick relationships. If you get sick or hurt from smoking or alcohol then you don't get the Government's help- no Medicaid, no prescription coverage- nothing. The manufacturers and you get the bill. If the consumers of their products are getting sick and costing the manufacturers lots of money, then they will have to make safer products, won't they? We don't need laws. We need responsibility for self.
Smoking and Alcohol consumption are one of the rare examples of relating a health problem to a product. Otherwise policy based on science is a disaster. Science, by and large, is a mass of contradictions. The most expensive clinical study in history just determined that low fat diets do nothing to reduce the risk of heart attacks or cancer. Do we want to react with a government policy or program to every new study?
We can argue for health care when we stop trying to use the government to protect everybody from every possible thing that can go wrong, and when we stop paying for people's mistakes.
If you want to impose your values on someone then that means being dominated in turn. Domination, as Bush is discovering, means doing whatever it takes to win. Invariably that means losing who you are. Bush is far more corrupt now and in much more dangerous ways than he was before he tried to use government to impose his will on people. As are some Democrats.
Only Nixon could go to China. Only a party devoted to personal responsibility can argue for personal freedoms, welfare, social security, trade laws, worker protections, sexual and reproductive rights and disaster relief. When we clean up our house of contradictions then we will be able to say we stand for something. Once we stand for something we can run on something.
Every time we lose an election we try to reinvent ourselves. Every time the Republicans lose an election they dig deeper into their base. We don't need to reinvent ourselves. We need to stay true to ourselves and get to work on getting more of us to vote. We consistently hold more popular positions on all the major issues. We are not losing the war of ideas.
So why do we lose elections? Well, technically, we've only lost one of the last two presidential elections. Time will tell if we really lost the last one or not. I believe elections are won on ideology. The corruption and incompetence of the Bushies does nothing to expose their ideological bankruptcy, so it's of no value to the Democrats in 2006. No one is going to listen to us say the far right is bankrupt. We have 'glass house' issues. If we focus on corruption, no matter what the polls say, we will lose in 2006.
The only way to root out the ideological bankruptcies and strengths of the far right is to put their policies in action and see what results they bring. It's not enough for us to be right. People have to know we are right. They aren't going to take our word for it. The elections of 2000 and 2004 have done nothing if not expose the true colors of this country's political parties. We should be grateful. When we panic and wring our hands in anguish we tell Americans we are weak. We aren't.
Now, finally, the results of putting neo-con ideology into action in the real world are becoming clear. We've long known that Neo Conservatism won't work. Lo and behold! It is proving it doesn't work! Now everybody else knows it, too. It's pretty obvious- yes- even to conservatives. All of the right wing dreams for peace and prosperity in the Middle East are collapsing- there just isn't enough money for both domestic needs and shoving democracies down the throats of Arabs. There never was enough money.
It's still too early in the Iraq re-invention process for the far righties to see their failures are ideological, as incredible as that may be. To them it's a matter of time and money before things turn around. Up until now, as their policies fail they've looked to re-enforce them. The Republicans are now showing signs of re-thinking some issues.
"I told you so!" is not strength. They should not be embarrassed. They are growing up, and that sort of thing should be encouraged since we have so much growing up to do ourselves. We need to be ready with who we are and what needs to be done. Taking the best of what ever the right wingers manage to accomplish, whether by sheer luck or actual insight, and moving forward is real strength. We are so frickin desperate! If we are genuine about wanting to move the country forward we need not be so depressed and angry and bitter about Bush.
Bush, shockingly, is one of the very few right wingers who now understand relying on oil will not secure the tighty tighty grand dream of a Keebler Village governed by a robot Jesus from outer space. He did not believe oil was not the answer before he became President. He's not trying to grab our issue- he's growing. Cheney, ever the oilman and seemingly incapable of change, is slowly but surely losing influence. Cheney is selfish. He doesn't want to grow. He wants everything to stay the same.
Rightwingers, having no idea security comes from within, assume we Dems are just as insecure- and desperate- as they are. They can't understand why we don't want to live in their fortress, so they come to the reasonable conclusion, given the facts they are working with, that we are cowards. They're not just saying that to be spiteful. They really don't get that security comes from within. They truly don't get it. Like idiots we repeatedly, despite zero success, fall into the trap of defending ourselves. We picked John Kerry to run against Bush. Not an appropriate use of John Kerry's bravery. To this day we're trying to convince them we're not cowards. That is a loser's strategy, and it will be until the end of time.
Despite our mistakes, we could have overwhelmed Bush's vote count in 2004 had we gotten our asses to the polls- and Kerry would be an excellent President and Iraq would be a lot better off. But we are less motivated to vote then the tighty righties. They vote out of terror. They think that if their values aren't enforced everything will collapse. They think they are losing control. They vote to survive.
What in the left and moderate camps is as uniting and motivating as the right wing's insecurity? We are motivated to beat the right, but that is not enough. We are not motivated by what we are, or by losing what we are, so we don't vote in numbers as high as the tighty righties. Who are we at our core- in our Heart of Hearts?
A Democratic Vision
What is the natural organizing force of the Democrats?
It's not personal freedom, its personal responsibility. We stand for personal responsibility. We're just afraid to take responsibility for what that means. We must seize and own the issue of personal responsibility. That can get us out in force come election time. It is a grand, unifying all-American vision that is a profound source of political strength. "Personal Responsibility" is something Joe Rightwing understands. "Responsibility" is a word he can vote for. That is a word that can help him feel safe. We must say the Democratic Party's core value is personal responsibility.
Making personal responsibility the foundation of our party tells our base we will protect their freedom to pursue happiness as they see it, but the price they pay is responsibility for whatever consequences come of their actions. "We'll protect your right to get into trouble, but we won't pay to get you out of trouble. You'll get yourself out. And if you do get out of trouble please pass on what you have learned." Some families will break up. Those that adapt and learn will survive.
Responsibility is the only word that will get Democrats and Republicans behind each other, this country and our political party. Dems get their freedoms, Republicans get to take responsibility for keeping themselves on track. When Righties want the government to do their work we can say they are over-reaching. We can challenge and encourage the right wing to take responsibility for feeling unsafe without making it the rest of the world's problem.
So let's break it on down. The Republicans run on three things: tax breaks, which Americans can take or leave depending on the situation, national security, and family values. Their security credentials are unraveling in the light of reality. That leaves the values issue. We aren't winning the values debate, but not because of our values.
When the Republicans say Dems "don't have values" they mean we aren't helping them force family values on others. Because we are not forcing others to live by family values, says their rather interesting logic, we do not truly care about family values. We need to make what the righties are really saying perfectly clear. Because they assume we are just like them, they consider our refusal to enforce values as a lack of character. We cannot fall into the trap of defending ourselves against this charge. We must say to them- you must take personal responsibility to keep your family together, Mr. Big Government.
More Dems live by family values, of course, than do the righties. We have lower divorce rates and longer marriages, for example, but we can't use our values as a political asset. Why not? Because we lead with "Personal Freedom." That's a value, isn't it? Yeah, but people vote for a vision of America. Vote for Personal Freedom? Freedom to do what? Anything anybody wants? What is our vision- America Gone Wild? People don't vote for vague concepts, and we certainly can't say "vote for aborting fetuses".
People can't vote for personal freedom, but they can vote for Personal Responsibility. That sends a clear political message. That is an American value. It should be the organizing, defining principle in all our policies. Only when we encourage and support people taking care of themselves will we be able to rid our party of the "Big Government" label.
A Path to Success
Nothing will change in Washington until we change, and that means we have growing up to do. In order to rid ourselves of our inconsistencies, mature our party and earn the right to stand for something I recommend the following changes:
1)We must champion personal freedom limited only by one law: no one has the right to interfere with the free will of others.
2)We must not impose our values on those who do not share them, and take responsibility for the changes that need to be made in our lives.
3)We must come to realize our one and only political asset is who we are. Our opponent's problems do nothing for us politically.
4)We must stop doing "whatever it takes" to win when that means betraying our values. We should act in accordance with any reforms we would pass before they are passed, whether they get passed into law or not.
5)We must stop electing Congressman Santa Claus. We must not make our government into a God who would prevent all bad things from happening. We must stop promising people government can solve all their problems. We must not ask the government to do for us what we should do for ourselves. If we want laws and regulations that interfere with another's free will we are misusing government.
6)Governmental resources should be strictly allocated to help people who prove they want to become self sustaining.
7)We must lead by example, and let our actions speak for us. We must make sure our own house is in order. Our only focus should be making our party, our conduct and our voter turn out a shining example of who we are. We need to take our focus off the Republicans.
8)We must change the way we treat our opponents. Their concerns should be treated with consideration and respect, and taken at face value. We must never question their motives nor their desire to do the best thing for this country- not because they are saints- but because it is none of our damn business. We must stop characterizing Republicans as a diabolical, sinister force. We need to stop battering, humiliating, embarrassing, shaming, and above all hating the far right. However, when our opponents break the law, or stretch the constitution, we must nail them to the cross. Immediately. We must not play politics with lawbreakers.
9)We must stop pretending Republicans are in a pre-Democratic state of development. They are dealing with a wholly different set of personal issues. They are not people who will come around to our side through exposure to our ideas. They are different from us. Not better, not worse. Different. It is time to accept them as they are and recognize their contributions as they come forward. They can only grow through the process they have chosen.
10) We must rid ourselves of self doubt.
If we adopt these changes we will grab the huge mainstream center of the political spectrum, leaving the far-out fringes of the right and left to fight over a political carcass picked clean.